Dan Walker explains why volunteering is important for society as a whole. He hopes to encourage alumni to pledge to volunteer for an hour as part of Volunteer Impact Week in June.
The benefits of pitching in
When it comes to volunteering Dan Walker is a man of action.
He is an executive volunteer of the University of Auckland’s Māori Alumni Club, he is involved with numerous te ao Māori organisations, and contributes to various advisory boards and his children’s sports teams.
Dan hopes to encourage others to pitch in for a cause they care about and says there’s no time like the present to get involved.
“I have a bias towards action and making sure that we actually do good things in the community - not just talk and plan things,” he says.
“I hear people waiting to volunteer until they pay off the mortgage, or for the kids grow up, or for when they retire. I suggest that you give now. It doesn't have to be money. Whatever time or talents you have, either little or large, is valuable.”
He has gained immense satisfaction from seeing the results of his volunteer work come to fruition.
“I love doing things that have a long term benefit for the community. Nothing beats the feeling of working towards something that is intergenerational and going to improve our world. From a Māori perspective, I believe you can really effect change when you volunteer with our amazing youth.
“I believe giving to something bigger than ourselves is a part of our wellbeing. We are all connected to each other and the world.”
One particular volunteering highlight for Dan is when he mentored for the First Foundation, which helps gifted students from under-privileged backgrounds achieve at university.
“The amazing and talented leader I mentored was a young Māori-Pasifika man who had a passion for science. I would meet him at the University of Auckland and we would talk through the things he was facing - most of it was him seeking life advice. He had his difficulties, but in the end finished his studies, all the while becoming a dad to a beautiful child and landing some great opportunities.
“In his graduation speech he thanked me. It was a really touching and emotional experience. I don't really think I did much but I obviously had a great impact. It shows that volunteering doesn't have to take all of your time. Whatever you can do will make a difference if you approach it with an authentic and giving heart.”
Dan adds that while his volunteer work has improved the lives of others, it has enhanced his life in ways he never thought possible.
“My volunteering has given me some experience at a board level with a variety of organisations, which has given me the chance to think and act more strategically. It has given me an appreciation of how the business world operates from a broader perspective and how we are beholden to many stakeholders outside of the profit driven motive. This has certainly help me be successful in my career and life in generally.
“Volunteering for my iwi, marae and hapū and other Māori organisations has helped me improve my te reo, my understanding of tikanga and my general level of comfort within te ao Māori.
“I am a better father, husband, family member, employee, leader, citizen and person in this world because I give.”
Another memorable moment for Dan is when he was selected to volunteer at the annual Koroneihana (coronation) celebration of the Māori King, which attracts tens of thousands of people from across the world to Tūrangawaewae marae in Ngaruawahia.
“Hundreds of people volunteered their time throughout this week. You have to work for many years to get the honour of volunteering your time to the Koroneihana. It is a massive honour to volunteer and you really feel that. I worked in the food prep area, affectionately called the dungeon, with 15 others.
“We worked hard morning, noon and night to prepare food to feed up to 3,000 people each day. It was physically demanding and mentally draining but it felt amazing to be connected to so many people serving a beautiful kaupapa that has been around for more than 150 years and was bigger than all of us. It was truly a transformational experience and one I will never forget.”
He says there are several ways to help out with an organisation you care about.
“Remember the three ways to give – your talents, your money, your time. Volunteering is a great way to contribute to the world. Find what your passions are and then look at how you can serve them. Giving is about mutual benefits – for the giver and receiver.”